Pageviews last month

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A Plea for Gender-Specific Translation

Those who have followed this blog know that it has been unrelenting at times in its criticism of perceived inconsistencies in the TNIV; perhaps to a slightly lesser degree of those in the NIV. Inasmuch as both of these translations are on the verge of obsolescence, I've expressed my hopes that whatever replaces them will be a truly gender-specific translation. To illustrate what I mean, let me give an example:
1 Corinthians 11:28.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.

But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup.

Notice that the first three versions use 'a man' and 'himself'. This despite there is absolutely no indication of gender in the original Greek, which reads anqrwpos eauton. anqrwpos is the word for human being (homo in Latin) and eauton is the singular reflexive pronoun, matching the masculine grammatical gender of anqrwpos.

The problem, of course, is that we don't really have a genderless way of saying this in English. We either have to go with the awkward, 'a person ought to examine himself or herself before he or she eats' or we have to change the translation. The NLT goes with the latter in neutering the construction, and in so doing changes it from third person to second. Actually, I can't say this isn't an acceptable translation, as it basically reflects colloquial speech. But what does the TNIV say?

We ought to examine ourselves before we eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

Ah, now the subject of the sentence has changed with the interjection of the first person. There is a clear difference in meaning between 'you ought to examine yourself' and 'we ought to examine ourselves'. This is no longer translation, nor even interpretation, but PC foolishness. The CBT has ghostwritten Paul into someone afraid of the word 'his'.

May I make a suggestion? Since the Greek does use the masculine gender, the reason being that the generic word for 'human' in Greek is masculine, would it not be most accurate to translate using an English generic word that also takes the masculine gender? I speak of the pronoun 'one'.

One ought to examine himself--and, in so doing, eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

This is a formally equivalent translation of the Greek, and equally as gender-specific. It makes perfect sense in English, and no one fluent in English is going to be fooled into thinking that there is a gender-specific reference only to men in this verse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

One comment per viewer, please--unless participating in a dialogue.